On August 9, 2023

Support Plymouth’s short term rental ordinance

 

Dear Editor,

Discussion has ensued on two provisions following the Plymouth Select Board’s decision in May 2023 to amend elements of the Short-Term Rental (STR) Ordnance currently in place.  These changes were intended to make the regulations more reasonable and to encourage better compliance.  

Please vote yes to support the amended Short-Term Rental Ordinance.

Though not a voting resident of town, I am a fifth generation Plymouth property owner and taxpayer who offers our family property as a vacation rental. I have actively participated in the Select Board’s discussions and support their decision to make improvements to the STR Ordinance and I urge others to examine and support the changes adopted in May.  

Rationale for proposed amendments

Fire inspections, health condition controls, state lodging tax remittal, respect for neighbors — these are all things that should be embraced and followed by all rental businesses. 

The amendment to make Knox Boxes “recommended”’ instead of “required” is fair and reasonable and should be adopted. The rationale being put forth for Knox boxes being required is based on concern for renter safety/ease of first responder entrance. If this is the case, then it should be a requirement for all residences in town, so that all residents’ safety is safeguarded equally.  Furthermore, a management plan for the protection of residents’ privacy and security should be in place prior to any mandated entry provision.

The choices surrounding homeowners insurance is a personal matter and the details should not be dictated by the town.  I choose to maintain a full commercial rental policy because that’s what I want for myself and my guests. It seems an overreach for the town to oversee the details of my insurance policy.  If others choose to be underinsured, they put their property and family assets at risk, but this does not impact the community.

Other elements of the current regulations should be reconsidered in the near future as well, to help make the ordinance more feasible and reasonable for both sides.

Parking

Parking restrictions based on bedroom count are outdated and ineffective methods for addressing the relevant community concerns. Preventing people from parking in the street can easily be enforced with a town wide regulation that prohibits on-street parking.  Requiring on-site parking would be a reasonable item.

Occupancy

The current occupancy provision limits the number of people staying in a house due to the concern for septic capacity. However, this does not take into account other mitigation factors, such as more frequent septic pumping and the part-time occupancy of vacation-seekers. The Standards for Responsible Hosting set out by the  Vermont Short Term Rental Alliance (VTSTRA) recommend to “Limit occupancy to the legal limit determined by a State Fire Safety Certification, or limit occupancy to two people times the number of legal bedrooms plus two (to prevent sewer/septic damage, control wastewater management, and prevent neighborhood disturbances)”. 

Safety inspection

Requiring every vacation rental to complete a full, in-person inspection in every year is excessive and impractical for Vermont’s limited fire safety resources.  VTSTRA recommends that vacation rentals “complete a fire & life safety inspection every 5 years”, which is adequate and aligns with standards set for long-term rental units in other Vermont towns.  

I hope that the voters of Plymouth will consider all the information and facts that have been circulated and debated when they vote on the Select Board’s amendments on Aug. 15.  

Vacation rentals provide positive economic contribution to the community and the Select Board members have worked hard to improve the rules. They deserve the community’s support.  

James Tepper,  Plymouth

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